Monday, June 6, 2011

Scouting My BBS and Tilling the Garden

Once a year, Johnny and I run a Breeding Bird Survey starting from Valley of the Giants, an area of gigantic, old growth trees in the Coast Range. Marbled Murrelet seabirds fly in from the ocean to nest on the mossy limbs of these enormous trees. The tree tops pictured above are at Stop #1 of our route and traditional nesting sites for the robin-sized Marbled Murrelets.

Our assigned starting time is a bit before 5 a.m., since that's when the birds arrive to feed their nestlings, and stop #1 must be hiked into. It's a 2 1/2 hour drive from our farm to Valley of the Giants. So we camp overnight. But before we run the actual route, we scout it to make sure all roads are passable and the 50 stops where I count birds are findable.

Yesterday we made the scouting trip. It was great weather. The road was awful as usual. I hate potholes that you can't avoid. Passable just means the road isn't blocked by downed trees. But we made it to our campsite and I walked in to stop #1.

Every year, the salmonberry bushes grow thicker and more trees fall across the long-ago abandoned logging road that I hike. But there are some lovely stretches where nothing but yellow violets bloom. Too bad the whole route isn't like this.

On the way to Stop #1, I tried walking off the road, through the woods, to avoid the worst salmonberry thicket... and found my route blocked by fallen trees I had to clamber over. This would not be a safe route at 4 in the morning, in the dark. On the walk out, I tried going around the thicket on the other side of the old logging road. This way led through Devil's Club. Not a good option.

Looks like I'll have to plow through the salmonberry thicket and hope I don't fall into the crater made by an uprooted giant tree that I fell into last year. Above all, I want to do the actual route before the salmonberries have berries on them. They are flowering now. I do not want to run into any hungry bears snacking in the wee hours of the morning. I had my fill of hungry bear encounters last fall on our farm.

While checking out our 50 stops, one every half mile, we also looked for Dipper nests, now that I've become a bit of a Dipper fanatic. Under one bridge, I found four nests in various stages of construction or disrepair... it was hard to tell which. I suppose a pair of Dippers has used this bridge for many years, sometimes building a new nest when the old one became too dilapidated to repair. Also under one bridge was a bat house, put there by a bat conservation group. I don't know if any bats have taken up residence.

When we will run the actual route is uncertain. I have a goat due to kid this week, Johnny has a doctor appointment, and there are still Black Oystercatcher nests to be checked once a week on the coast. Plus the Dipper nests up Agency Creek.

And there is a garden to plant and tend. Today I mowed the garden site for the second time and then tilled for the first time. It will take several more tillings to make it plantable, but at least the weeds are gone for now. With the warm weather of the weekend (our thermometer registered 88.9F on Saturday), everything is growing like mad. My recently transplanted-into-tires tomatoes got sunburned. We're back down in the 60s today. Crazy weather.

It's a busy time of year on the farm with everything needing doing at once. So I figure we may as well take a break (or at least a change of pace) with yet another bird survey... definitely before the salmonberry flowers have turned to bear-tempting berries.

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